Other States

Vaghela recalls the miles he journeyed with Modi

The former Gujarat Chief Minister, Shankersinh Vaghela, reminiscing about the long-forgotten train journey at his residence in Gandhinagar. Photo: Rahi Gaikwad  

Surprise and then nostalgia were evident on his face. Shankersinh Vaghela, former Gujarat Chief Minister and one-time friend and mentor of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was pleasantly surprised when he read The Hindu’s account of a long-forgotten >train journey they had undertaken in the summer of 1990 ( A train journey and two names to remember by Leena Sarma, June 1, 2014).

Mr. Vaghela was a Lok Sabha member then and Mr. Modi, a BJP worker — friends untouched by political rivalry.

“As an MP, I was entitled to one extra ticket. So I told him [Mr. Modi] to join me. He was a party worker,” Mr. Vaghela recalled at his residence here.

Recalling their ties, Mr Vaghela said the two had gone on innumerable motorbike trips together, with the future Prime Minister riding pillion.

“I owned a Royal Enfield and anyone who sat on it had to be strong because it made a lot of noise that could oppress the eardrums. Those days, the party did not have a vehicle and we did not have access to circuit houses. We would ride across the districts of Gujarat, meeting party sympathisers, business people, writers and commoners. We would stay in people’s houses. We did this for about five or six years,” Mr. Vaghela said.

Mr. Modi, he recalled, had “very peculiar traits”. “From the early days itself, he was always particular about creating a different identity for himself. If they wore khaki shorts in the RSS, he wore white. If others wore a red thread around their wrists, he sported a black one. His shoes too were different. He was always conscious about his whole look and had a passion for photographs.”

Mr. Vaghela, now in his 70s, is with the Congress and has but a faint memory of the train journey.

“When people told me of the [ The Hindu] article, I called for a copy. Someone even sent me a photo of its writer. There are so many incidents where we help people. It all happens naturally. When there is a human angle, there is no publicity angle in mind. We do it for our satisfaction. But it feels good when you get an unexpected return. I will probably invite her for tea in Delhi,” he said.

“We [Mr. Modi and I] had taken the train from Delhi. The women passengers had an RAC [reservation against cancellation] ticket and it could not be confirmed. We heard their exchange with the ticket checker. He assured them that he knew us and there was no need for worry. Since the women were travelling to Ahmedabad, it was natural for us to enquire about their stay and travel. The writer was probably moved by our concern, since her previous experience of politicians was not good,” he said.

But what about the fact that he slept on the floor even though he was an MP at the time? “We have a special respect for women, the elderly and children. Anyway, Railways provide you with sheets. Moreover, in those days, the coupé was a luxury for us,” Mr. Vaghela pointed out.

>A train journey and two names to remember

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2020 3:13:56 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/vaghela-recalls-the-miles-he-journeyed-with-modi/article6083017.ece

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